Friday, May 7, 2010

down to one

Please forgive the silence around here - it's springtime, and that means our attention is needed more outside the house, and there's less time available to spend here at the blog. There is plenty going on, although it's been a week of mixed emotions.

Our second hatch of ducklings was small to start with - only six, which is a very small number for the prolific Muscovy ducks. We suspect that due to our unusually cold weather earlier in the season, some of the eggs may have frozen. We lost one of those six ducklings very early on - in the first couple of days. This is not unusual. The other five have been growing and thriving, and all was well until this week. Another one disappeared earlier in the week. I just found it this morning, inside the duck house, half-buried in the bedding. I don't have any idea what happened to the poor little guy. Betty has been sleeping outside with the babies at night, and we were worried that it had been taken by a predator - most likely a raccoon. Not wanting to risk any more of them, we closed them up inside the house last night for safety. Words cannot express the dismay I felt when I opened the door this morning and only one duckling came out. I searched inside the house, and all around the yard, and...nothing. Where did they go? What happened to them? I honestly don't know. My suspicion is that they wandered out through the wire enclosure during the night and were unable to get back in. Betty wouldn't have been able to go out after them, and they'd have been helpless in the grass. I feel beyond awful.

We've been expecting some bunnies as well. They were due to kindle around mid-week. I went out Wednesday afternoon to check on everyone and was excited to see that mama rabbit was inside the nest box! As I approached, however, something just didn't look right. The poor thing had died, presumably during labor. Two babies had been born, but were dead as well - the rest never made it out. I have no idea what happened here either, and between losing the rabbits and the ducklings, it has been a very dispiriting few days.

As usual, though, it hasn't been all bad. Our other duck is working on a new clutch of eggs, and we have another rabbit that's due to kindle in a couple of weeks. The garden is looking great - even the flagging beans are starting to rally - and the goats and chickens are producing in abundance. We processed the first half of the broiler chickens last weekend, and I could not be more pleased with the results. I'll write a full post on that soon. I know some of you have been awaiting a bee update, and I'll give that in a separate post as well. For now, I need to remind myself that weeks like this come along from time to time, but it's hard not to beat myself up. All I ever want is to do right by my animals - to give them a safe and happy life - and it crushes my spirit when I can't deliver even that.

**UPDATE** - I now know what happened to the ducklings. I just opened the duck house to find all the new eggs gone, and a snake (caught red-handed, I'll spare you the details). It has been dealt with, but I know there are more out there.


  1. O Tara, I am so sorry. I know how you feel. I am not sure how old your ducklings were but when we had 10 week old chicks in the run. I forgot to close them up in the house one night. The next morning two were missing. We later found parts of them. My Uncle told me that he actually witnessed a racoon pull chickens through chicken wire... perhaps that is the same thing that happened with your ducks. We reinforced our with wire mesh after that.
    Either way I am really sorry for your week. Hope it gets better for you. ;)

  2. Leigh, they were only two weeks old. I just discovered that it was a snake.

  3. I'm sorry you've had such a rough time lately. We nearly had a similarly difficult few days on our city farm.

    I've been debating whether to put the chicks outside, but something keeps nagging me to let them enjoy the brooder box a while longer. It seems a tough balance between safety and freedom, and I don't know where to draw that line. Am I over-protective? Probably. Are they in danger of getting hurt by being crowded now that they've grown so big? Absolutely. But if something happens in the wide world of outdoor living, I'll feel terrible.

    After losing some important plants to a bad wind storm this week, it's becoming obvious to me that farming is part science, part math, part faith. Nature is going to take her share, whether you plan for it or not. Likewise, you don't gain without risking.

  4. What a bummer! I love your blog and am sorry to hear about all the loss. At least you know who the culprit is...

  5. O Wow, I bet that was startling! I am terrified that one day I am going to go into our chicken house and find a big fat snake coiled in one of the boxes. Hope the snake issue is taken care of. Good Luck.